Hospice set to open at last after takeover
ADESPERATELYNEEDED children’s hospice due to open three years ago is finally set to take in sick youngsters following the takeover of a struggling charity.
Grace’s Place in Radcliffe, Bury, was refurbished at a cost of £1.2m in 2014, including a £507,000 Department of Health grant, but has stood empty every since.
Backed by Radio 2 DJ Sara Cox, the facility on Dumers Lane is meant to serve families with sick children in Bury, Oldham, and Rochdale.
It is estimated around 650 children from the towns could benefit from a hospice, but currently have to travel up to 30 miles to get support.
With debts of more than £350,000, and no cash for staff, Grace’s Place has never opened. But now Huddersfield-based Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice, which was rated ‘outstanding’ by the Care Quality Commission, is to take it over. The charity already runs a hospice in Yorkshire at a cost of £4m a year.
Bosses hope to have a hospice at home service operating by December and plan to open the fivebed Grace’s Place next year with Princess Beatrice as patron.
Four charity shops to raise cash for the hospice will open in each town. It is hoped £500,000 will be raised in the next 12 months – including £60,000 rapidly – to finance the recruitment of four nurses.
Peter Branson, chief executive of Forget Me Not, said: “Six-years-ago we had a very similar situation in Huddersfield, where the community had been promised a children’s hospice for many years and were frustrated and wanted to see it happen because there was a great need.
“We have the experience to get things up and running and to get funding.
“We are in discussions with local clinical commissioning groups, and are really hopeful they will support us as they recognise the importance of getting Grace’s Place open.
“We will be caring for children with a whole range of conditions, not just end of life, and caring for mum and dad and brothers and sisters. The starting point will be hospice at home, which is crucial service. We go into children’s homes and provide planned respite on a weekly basis.”
Kirsty Franks, who will be interim manager at Grace’s Place, said: “There are an awful lot of families not getting the support they need. We need to dispel the myth of what a children’s hospice is for.
“Our job is to explain we offer so much more than end-of-life care.”
The debts of Grace’s Place have been cleared, including £150,000 owed to builder’s Seddon, who wrote if off to help the charity.
“Public donations have been protected and will be used to equip the site.
Kirsty added: “At Forget Me Not, our simple promise is that we always say ‘yes’ to the children and families who need us.
“We never, ever say ‘no’, because by the time they’re referred to us, families have heard too much negativity already. It’s now time for families in Bury, Oldham and Rochdale to start experiencing that same magic of ‘yes’.”
Chief executive Peter Branson and interim general manager Kirsty Franks outside Grace’s Place children’s hospice